The Leeuwenhof Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery has officially opened in Cape Town.
The Remembrance Gallery extends on the grounds of the Leeuwenhof and occupies the former slave quarters, the Bo-Tuin Huys and the garden between those two important heritage buildings.
It reflects on the cruelty of slavery and includes an exhibition on “Enslaved Lives” – the story of the slave quarters of Leeuwenhof and the lived reality of those who were enslaved not only in Leeuwenhof but also in the Cape.
It also includes an art exhibit and a rotating exhibit.
During the official opening Western Cape Prime Minister Alan Winde said that when he moved to Leeuwenhof, he learned about the history of the buildings, which as estates once housed slave quarters in the 18th century.
“It caused both Tracy and I to pause and reflect on the horrors of slavery that are tarnishing our country’s past, so we decided to do something about it.
“This Remembrance Gallery is the result of the process that followed, and I want to thank everyone involved for helping give a voice to those who were denied the most basic human rights all those years ago,” said Winde.
The Remembrance Gallery will also support local artists as their paintings and artwork will be sold in the gallery.
“In this way, the Slave Quarters Remembrance Gallery not only honors those who were enslaved by now telling their story, but is also an opportunity for their bereaved to live off their art,” said Winde.
Western Cape Cultural Affairs and Sports MEC Anroux Marais said:
During a visit to Leeuwenhof in 2019 Prime Minister Alan Winde shared the sad story of how the slaves were locked up in the small wine cellar next to the dining room, while the host and guests enjoyed themselves in luxury.
The slaves were only allowed to go out after dinner to clear the table and comply with the host’s requests.
“Slavery at the Cape affected thousands of people and their families. Between 1658 and 1807, an estimated 63,000 people were taken from their homes and taken as slaves to the Cape for expanding settlement by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), and later by the British colonial authorities.”
The people enslaved in the Cape came from Madagascar, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and during the early
VOC period, some were supplied from West Africa.
The memorial gallery will consist of:
1. An exhibition on the history of slavery
This exhibition aims to create a place of reflection around slavery. It contains a “Remember us” list of names of people who were enslaved at the Leeuwenhof.
Those who were enslaved were renamed at the discretion of the slave owners. Few historical documents remain to tell the story of enslaved people. This resulted in marginalization within historical narratives.
2. An art exhibition
Social, cultural and economic legacies of slavery are expressed works of art. The works in this exhibition come from the permanent collection of the Cape Town Museum.
A number of works of art have been purchased especially for this exhibition.
3. A changing exhibition of works of art for sale
The artworks are curated by the Association for Visual Arts (AVA) and are obtained through an open call for applications.
Submitted artworks do not necessarily reflect slavery – the artist may have a connection to the history of slavery at the Cape.
Tours and visiting hours
The gallery is open to the public every first Saturday of the month, from 10am to 2pm and by appointment.
Guided tours of both the historical exhibition and the rotating art exhibition take place every first Saturday of the month.
These tours are coordinated by AVA and the Cape Town Museum.
compiled by Narissa Subramoney